Former Health Minister and Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] central committee member K.K. Shylaja, MLA, has declined the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation's offer to consider her for the international honour in 2022.
Ms. Shylaja told reporters that the foundation had contacted her. It wanted to honour her for the public service and community leadership during the Nipah outbreak and COVID-19 pandemic in Kerala.
However, Ms. Shyalaja felt she could not accept the offer extended to her as an individual since the effort was collective. She contacted the party's State and Central leadership and apprised them of her position.
"The party discussed the matter and arrived at a consensus. I thanked the foundation, and I politely declined the proposition. Moreover, the award is in the name of former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay notorious for his suppression of communists in his country," Ms. Shyalaja said.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury dismissed speculation that the party had discriminated against Ms. Shylaja, partly because she is a woman, and restrained her from accepting the offer. “The collective effort of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government and the Health department helped Kerala successfully manage the pandemic.
“In that sense, it is not an individual effort. Magsaysay does not recognise collective action. It recognises only personal accomplishment. The foundation has not considered any active politician so far. Ms. Shylaja is a member of the CPI(M) central committee and a woman.,” Mr. Yechury said.
Secondly, the foundation instituted the award to perpetuate the memory of Ramon Magsaysay, an arch anti-communist who brutally suppressed communists when he was the Philippine president.
"Ms. Shylaja called me and gave her opinion. She is a central committee member and her view counts," he said.
Mr. Yechury dismissed the comparison between Ms. Shylaja's episode and the CPI(M) decision not to nominate former Chief Minister of West Bengal Jyoti Basu as the Prime Minister candidate of the United Front against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1996.
When asked if the rejection of the foundation's offer was a repetition of the 1996 "Himalayan blunder," Mr. Yechury said: "Why only second. You (journalists) portray the CPI(M) as committing blunders. That is perhaps why the people vote for us."
CPI(M) State secretary M.V. Govindan said the party was aware of Magsaysay's anti-communist political past. Moreover, Ms. Shylaja had merely executed the responsibility the party had tasked her with as Health Minister in the previous LDF administration.